Sunday, October 25, 2015

Silly Things

Sometimes, it's the silliest things that can make me nostalgic. Take, for instance, this shower head. It finally gave up the ghost and I'm pretty sad about it. You see, I bought that shower head when the kids were little. With three kids as close in age as mine are, it was far easier to line them up in the bathtub and hose them off with the shower head than to draw baths for them.

I bought this wonderful Waterpik in 1996 and it has moved with me ever since. No matter how many moves the kids and I made, the first thing I did was remove the old shower head and replace it with this. When we moved out, I simply put the original back on and the landlords were none the wiser for it.

Even after the kids moved out and Jay and I moved to Small Town, Colorado, the shower head moved with me.

I replaced it Friday with a new one that I already hate and I haven't even used it yet. I went with an economical version, but in installing it I realized it wasn't going to cut it. I'll use it, but only until I can buy a real Waterpik to replace it with. I should have just dished out the money in the first place instead of being a cheap ass.

In the meantime, I'll mourn the loss of the one item I've carried with me since the kids were babies.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 30

It was very hard to get a picture of the Colosseum, as it is always swarming with people. It looks like a busy anthill with ants scurrying here and there.

We did a self-guided tour and I was awe-struck by the fact that I was standing in a stadium with so much history. Even with so many people around, I could help but feel touched by the events past. We opted not to do a guided tour, but now that they've opened the underground chambers and passages to tour groups, I will definitely be doing that next time around.

Rome was an exciting, beautiful place to visit, but my inner country girl will always feel more at peace in the wide open spaces like Tuscany or in the small villages surrounded by nature like Cinque Terre.

Friday, October 23, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 29

Nebalee, Deejo, me

All girlified: Staci, Robs, me, Nebalee, Sue

Me and Robs both in dresses - it was an event!
I love my family and my girls. Love them. A year or so after Hall and I broke up, Brandy and Justin got married and I was invited to the wedding, along with Nebalee and Deejo.

Our break-up was awful and it took me years to get over it, so Brandy's wedding fell smack-dab in the middle of my mourning period. Because I love Brandy, I wouldn't have missed her wedding for anything, even if that meant seeing Hall and his fiancee for the first time since our very bad break-up.

My sibs and my girls rallied around me, knowing how difficult it was going to be and I ended up having the greatest time ever. Yes, Hall and the soon-to-be Mrs Hall were an annoyance, but we managed to avoid each other and still have a great time.

Because of my crazy work-out schedule (and probably some stress too), I had lost 24 pounds since anyone outside of my girls had seen me. Perhaps one of the best parts of the whole night was seeing the look on Hall's face when I walked in with my posse sibs and my girls. I never thought I was "girly" enough that I would derive pleasure from rubbing the fact that I was doing okay (even if it was a lie) in his face. Turns out I was wrong, I totally loved that feeling. It was so worth the "die, bitch" looks I was getting from his fiancee, who happened to be a member of the wedding party.

(Yes, Robs and I wore black to the wedding, not for any malicious reason, but because we were only going to buy ONE dress and it needed to be multi-purpose. What's more multi-purpose than a little black dress?)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 28

I didn't get heavily into shooting until after Hall and I broke up. I knew how to shoot before then, but once my stalker issue was resolved, I stepped away from the shooting lifestyle and learned to enjoy the soccer lifestyle, but I always missed it.

After we broke up, I stepped right back into the shooting world and began shooting competitively at our local defensive pistol matches. Neither Staci nor Robs are shooters, but they are always up for a challenge and agreed to join me at one of my matches.

I can't believe that it's been almost twelve years since these pictures were taken. I was so tiny back then and in the best shape of my life. Besides shooting, I was playing on four soccer teams a week (three indoor teams with Staci and Robs and one outdoor team), and working out six days a week. Being in that kind of shape certainly helped with my shooting skills, and while I would definitely consider Staci and Robs novice shooters, their athletic ability really helped them out at the match as well.

This was such a fun day and I'm forever thankful for my girls who wholeheartedly support me in anything I want to do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 27

Both of these were taken at Highgate Cemetery in London on our first trip to Europe. I never had much interest in history, but this cemetery was really eye-opening for me. There are grave markers that are older than our country! These pictures don't do it justice - the cemetery (the East one, at least) is breathtaking. It is surprisingly peaceful and full of life.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 26

My ex-husband and I bought a house in Loveland shortly after Monster was born. We couldn't afford it, not even close, but his parents' friends were selling it and his parents decided to buy it with us.

This picture of me with Dr. Michael Charney was taken at our house warming party. Doc was one of my favorite instructors at CSU - so much so that I became one of his many teaching assistants. He was a world renowned forensic anthropologist, and I fell in love with the field of forensic anthropology the second I stepped into his osteology class. The second semester, I took his facial reconstruction class and my fate was sealed. I had to work for him, and I did until the day he died and then some.

I had the pleasure of learning from him for three or four years and was convinced that if I didn't get into medical school, I would end up in his field. I expected him to live forever and just assumed that he'd be around to help me in my career. Unfortunately, he was not immortal and died in the hospital of pneumonia. The team of TAs finished teaching out the semester, which just wasn't the same without him.

The kids loved visiting his lab, a small A-frame on CSU's campus. Rows and rows of skulls lined three walls of his office, the fourth wall was shelves loaded with boxes of bones that the families' of the deceased had donated. You would think, being surrounded by all of those bones would be creepy, but it wasn't. It felt like being among friends, strange as that sounds.

Bonus picture: this is on my cabinet at work.
You can see in the bonus picture, the rows of skulls lining the wall behind Doc. He left instructions - and made them well known - that his bones were to be articulated (wired together) and sent back to CSU. Doc's office, the A-frame, has been turned into a storage shed or something, so he now keeps someone else company all day long. He now permanently resides in an office, posed the way he often sat in real life.

Monday, October 19, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 25

Creepy, muddy lane and the Scooby Doo gate

This might just look like a long, muddy road, but it leads to one of the most haunted castles in Europe. Chillingham Castle was a must-do on our first trip as a group across the pond.

The plan was to take the train from London to Alnmouth and then take a cab from Alnmouth to Chillingham. We noticed that one of the stops along the way was in Newcastle, and Hall was a die-hard Newcastle United fan, so the two of us decided to get off at Newcastle so we could go see St. James' Park.

We hopped off at the stop, planning to catch the next one through and meet up with everyone else at the castle. However, we did so without checking the train schedule. Turns out that the train only stopped at Newcastle during commuter hours, so we  were stuck in Newcastle until the end of the work day. This was back before cell phones were readily available and had decent international service, so we had no way of telling the rest of the group that we would be hours behind them, not just one hour. We walked around St. James' Park and enjoyed the day in Newcastle before hopping the first afternoon train to Alnmouth.

I don't recall how we managed to arrange for a cab in Alnmouth, because my memory of the station is just a stop in the middle of nowhere. I do remember that the cab from Alnmouth to Chillingham was not an actual nightmare, but neither of us could understand a single word the cab driver said and he apparently could barely understand us. We did understand when he pointed out Alnwick Castle, where they filmed Harry Potter. Those were about the only words we understood, "American Filmn Harry Potter". No, that's not a typo, he said filmn.

The gate at the end of the long, muddy lane in the picture is what we came to call the "Scooby Doo gate", full of creaks and groans just like the cartoon.

Shamelessly stolen picture of the creepy bridge on the grounds

While Brian and I were cooling our heels in Newcastle, the rest of the group took a tour of the castle grounds. I loved the picture of the creepy bridge so much that I stole a copy of it from someone (either Squid or Robs).

Being the off-season for tourists, the castle wasn't exactly bustling with activity and there was no food to be found, so the caretakers sent Hall and I into the next village to find some food. The rest of the group had given up waiting on us and had already gone on ahead.

The mile and a half into the village was the longest mile and a half I'd ever walked. It was like we'd been transported into American Werewolf in London, and I'm not exaggerating. It was dark, drizzly, and there were a bunch of noises we didn't recognize.

Unbelievably, we found the rest of the group in a restaurant in the village, just getting their dinner. We happened to look through a window of a restaurant and there they were! I was never so happy to see familiar faces in my life.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 24

I love this picture of me at a Byers, Colorado long-range match. I don't have a long-range rifle of my own, so both matches I shot, I did with a borrowed gun. At this match, both Tara and I used her rifle.

Bonus picture: this one is not on my wall, but this is Tara at the same match.
There's something very satisfying about laying down behind a rifle and hitting your target 1,000 yards away. If you can't picture how far away 1,000 yards is, it's more than half a mile. 0.568182 miles away, to be exact. (In the bonus picture, you can't even see the targets, but they're located at the top of the rise.) It's a long, long way off and I managed to hit my target all day long.

Well, all except one shot. When you're shooting at that distance, there are some forces outside of your control. The one shot I "threw" was because just as the trigger broke, a gust of wind popped up and pushed my bullet to the right. A lot. My bullet tore through the target to my right. Let me tell you, there are few things more embarrassing than hitting another competitor's target in competition. She wasted no time yelling that it wasn't her shot, so she wouldn't be scored on it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 23

I'm leading, Ashinator is in the pink, and Digger is behind her.

One of the best benefits of working for the livery was that I could do cool things for the kids. For Digger's birthday one year, we had a riding party. If I wasn't working there, it would have been cost-prohibitive, but many summers I worked in trade for free rides and tips.

Digger was allowed to invite a few friends up to ride, and we went out for a one-hour ride. After our ride, we were treated to a trick roping show. One of the wranglers had a friend who was a competitive trick roper (did you know there was even such a thing?), and he spent some time showing off and teaching the kids a few rope tricks.

Friday, October 16, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 22

Back row: Shannon, Kev, Justin. Front row: Robs, me, Brandy, Mrs. Squid, Squid

It was hard to leave Sovigliano, but we were ready to continue our adventure in Italy. This is one of the few pictures we have of the entire group together, and our hosts were kind enough to take it.

Traveling with a group this large can be difficult, but we'd been friends long enough and traveled enough together that we could just set times to meet back up and go our own ways without anyone's feelings getting butt-hurt. There was never any pressure to stay together as a large group. We had plans at least once a day to do something as a group, usually food-based, but the rest of the day we split up and explored where we wanted to.

I'm so thankful that Squid is a planner extraordinaire and that this group was so easy to travel with. Too bad everyone grew up, got married, and started having families of their own. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 21

Back before re-creation photos were popular, we did this re-creation picture. The original is up at the Lodge and we were much younger. I was 18 when the first picture was taken, and this was taken maybe 15 years later. I don't exactly remember, but it was a long time ago.

We had the original picture taken at an "Old Tyme" photo place in Estes Park (long before Mom and Bill owned the Lodge), so we took the original picture in with us to the same place to have this one done. I don't see much difference in me between the first and second pictures. Yes, I'm older, but I was 18 in the first and pretty much done growing. Junior, the youngest, is the one who changed the most from picture to picture. He was 9 in the first picture, so in this one he's all growed up.

If you want to be able to compare the two pictures, you'll just have to book a room at the Lodge :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 20

This might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Ashinator and Jakers. She was such a darn cute kid and loved her Jake. Yes, he looks worried in this picture, but he always looked worried. This was early on in his new life with us. His worried face dissipated throughout the years and became more 'patient tolerance'.

I don't know that there's a story behind this picture other than it's just darling and it makes me smile. Jake loved and protected the kids and put up with all of their shenanigans.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 19

I've only made the kids do a family Halloween costume once, but it was the cutest Halloween ever. Since we had the Best Dog in the World, Jakers, and Jake was a Dalmatian, I just had to have my own fire brigade for Halloween.

Mom sewed the turnout coats (this was long before you could buy a fighterfighter's costume) and I made the breathing apparatus. I took 2 liter bottles and painted them, ran an oxygen hose from the bottom of the "tank" to a mask, and fashioned a harness for their tanks. Black gloves, plastic fire helmets, and snow boots completed the costumes for the kids.

Jakers, however, had to have his own costume. I made a drape for him to wear and turned our little red wagon into a fire engine, complete with a flashing bubble light. I knew the kids would get tired while Trick-or-Treating, so having the wagon was a stroke of genius on my part, if I do say so myself. I tried to make a harness for Jake to pull the wagon, but that was a pain in the butt, so I settled for walking Jake with one hand and dragging the wagon with the other.

Corralling Jake and three squirmy kids for a picture was next to impossible, so I plopped the kids down on the couch after we got back from Trick-or-Treating and snapped a quick picture. As you can tell, they were over the whole thing and just wanted to eat their damn candy.

Monday, October 12, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 18

Back when the kids were little soccer players.

I miss those days, hectic as they were. I'm pretty much the most obnoxious sports mom on the planet. Not one of the ones who doesn't understand the game, but yells at the kids/coach/ref anyway. Nope, when I yelled at the ref, it was justified. I knew the rule book pretty well.

I coached Digger's team for a few years and my team is all "growed up", but they still all call me "Coach". We had a lot of fun for those few years. We weren't the best team in the league, but we were by far not the worst. I'm proud of the boys - they worked hard and grasped the concept of the game much better than many of the other teams in the league. The teams who were better than us were the ones who were being groomed for the competitive travel teams, while we were playing for fun. Hall and I hosted a "parents vs kids" game every season, and Hall would bring a variety of his jerseys for the kids to choose from to wear. The kids always looked forward to kicking their parents' butts. At first, the parents would "go easy" on the boys, but the boys quickly showed them that unless they wanted slaughtered, the parents better step up their game. Great memories.

Before soccer, Ashinator was such a girly girl. She would cry over anything. Total emotional and physical wimp. Enter soccer. Holy cow, what a change. I remember one game where she got cleated in the stomach. If it had been me, I would have pulled myself from the game. I mean, I'm tough, but I'm not "cleat marks on my gut" tough. Ashinator pulled up her shirt, looked at the bright red marks on her stomach and kept going. That's when I knew she'd be okay. She found her inner toughness. She's still pretty sensitive, but in a good way now.

Monster was a natural with a soccer ball. While the other kids on his team were still trying to figure out how to pass the ball correctly, Monster was juking the opponents right and left. He's a natural forward. He switched his passion from soccer to skateboarding and I was heartbroken. He's amazing with a skateboard, but to see a little three year-old with the soccer skills he had was breath-taking. I won't lie, I had dreams of soccer scholarships.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 17

This is a picture of me and Robs at the bottom of a cliff face between Manarola and Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre. We were walking from Manarola south to Riomaggiore and found a set of stairs that looked like they didn't go anywhere, so naturally, we had to try them. They led down to the water of the Italian Riviera, which was not by any stretch of the imagination a beach. The stairs basically led to a cove-like area where we took pictures and dodged the spray from the waves.

I would love to one day return to Italy. Someone once said they couldn't trust anyone who didn't love Italy (Rick Steves, maybe?), and I have to agree. One trip, and I will forever love it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 16

Well, I've officially made it more than halfway through my self-imposed 30 days. I'm still thankful I didn't specify 30 successive days. :)

I swore I'd never get married again. In fact, I was pretty content with the idea of just being a crazy horse lady, but Ashinator worried about me. (I think the boys did, too, but she was much more vocal about it.)

I threw a temper tantrum that eventually led to me meeting Jay and a few weeks later we were engaged. Compared to the whirlwind courtship, our engagement was really long - exactly eleven months. We got engaged on June 14 and married on May 14. We celebrated our sixth anniversary this year, which doesn't seem like that big a milestone, but for someone who swore off a relationship, it's pretty big.

I was married the first time right at seven years, though we were separated for six months before the divorce was final, and my other serious relationship was about five and a half years, making my marriage to Jay my longest relationship. We've got a long way to go to match my Great-Grandparent's sixty years, but I think we've got a good start. I mean, we're 1/10th of the way there!

Friday, October 9, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 15

My great-grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. I can't imagine being married that long, and when we did the math, Jay and I realized we will be well into our 90s if we ever make that mark.

I have lots of fond memories of growing up with Great-Grandma Wheeler. I was not at all her favorite - that would be Nebalee - but she was the one who picked me up from school when I was in kindergarten and played paper dolls with me. To this day, I can't figure out how she could take a sheet of paper and end up with a string of dolls. We pressed flowers between sheets of waxed paper and she always had a bunch of newspaper paper for me to draw on. On Sundays, after church, we'd swing through McDonald's and I could get a Happy Meal. Great-Grandpa would always have a Filet o' Fish sandwich and he lived for the Shamrock Shakes in March.

My memories of Great-Grandpa aren't as sharp as mine with Grandma, probably because he was off working at the cement plant when I was little. He had an amazing garden that was fully half an acre and I clearly remember getting in trouble for flushing the toilet one day when he was watering the garden. I was little, how was I supposed to know that it would kill the water pressure? From that time on, I was afraid to use their bathroom. I don't recall him being a hard man, but that one time getting in trouble certainly stuck with me.

He loved to go fishing at a nearby lake, and we'd always stop at the fish hatchery on the way. While he spent his time fishing, I would troll the water's edge for snails. There were so many! And I loved to pick them all up off the rocks. Once in a while, I'd be allowed to take a snail friend home with me in a plastic container of water with a rock or two in it.

Most of my memories of Great-Grandpa are from young adulthood when Parkinson's disease was ravishing his body. It was awful to see such a strong man slowly deteriorate. Great-Grandma and Grandma Nita helped care for him until the day he died. Shortly thereafter, Great-Grandma was diagnosed with colon cancer, so Grandma Nita took on the caretaker role again and cared for Great-Grandma until her death.

Their house and acreage has been sold and I about cried when the people who bought the house immediately ripped out their beautiful, HUGE picture window and put in a tiny "efficient" one. When I was younger, I was pretty certain their house was haunted, but I'd give just about anything to have their house (picture window intact) back.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 14

Holy cow, it might take me 30 weeks to get my 30 days in, but, by God, I am going to persevere. I am, I am, I am!

Today's picture is in honor of the Avalanche's Opening Day.

One of the first years we traveled to Disney's Wild World of Sports for the National 3v3 Soccer Championships, we were wandering around the Epcot Center. The four of us stopped at a food cart and the operator asked us if we were hockey fans. Well, yeah! The Colorado Avs were in their heyday and we were all fans. The operator then told us to head over to Canada, because they had the Stanley Cup on display.

It took us about half a second to change whatever our plans were and we made a beeline to see it.  We expected to have to stand in a long line, because the year after the Avs won their first Stanley Cup, the lines were hours long to see it when they brought it home to Colorado. We were pleasantly surprised to walk right up to it.

I had just purchased a popcorn while we were at the food cart and set it very carefully on the table, so as not to dirty it. A gust of wind immediately knocked over my popcorn as soon as I sat it down. I was mortified to have sullied the sacred cup, so I quickly righted the box of popcorn and brushed all the offending pieces to the ground.

Somewhere, one of the four of us has a picture of us all kissing the cup, but this is the only picture I have. My right thumb is caressing the engraved Avs name.

I couldn't tell you much about that trip, other than we had a great time and I got to kiss the Stanley Cup! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a memory I'll cherish forever.

Friday, October 2, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 13

Five living generations of females. My Great-Grandma Wheeler (lower left) was so excited. When Digger was born, we had our five living generations, but Great-Grandma really wanted to have five generations of women and she finally got it when Ashinator was born.

I don't think there are many families anymore who can boast the five living generations thing, and Great-Grandma died within a year after Ashinator was born. One of my childhood friends posted a picture of her grandma with the fifth generation baby; less than 24 hours after she met her goal of five living generations, her grandma passed away. It's funny how goals like that can help keep people alive.

I am sooooo not ready to be a grandma, but there's nothing that would make my Grandma Nita happier than for Ashinator to provide her with a fifth generation female to continue the tradition. It's a good thing Grandma Nita is insisting on living to 100 so we've got some time.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 12

Well, coming off of that last depressing post, here's a much happier one from our honeymoon. Instead of spending big bucks on a wedding, we chose to spend a week in Hawaii for our honeymoon. It was so beautiful and we were able to find a secluded beach away from the rest of the tourists, thanks to a co-worker who had lived there and gave us the name (which escapes me) of an area off the beaten path.

We quickly realized that beach-sitting was not for us. Yes, the beach was beautiful, but after about fifteen minutes we needed to get up and do something. We had planned for a few outings, which were definitely boredom-busters. We spend one day at Kualoa Ranch taking the movie set tour, and another day driving around the island. At other times, we just explored. It was beautiful, and I can understand why people would want to live there, but by the end of our week, we were ready to come home.

Hawaii is beautiful, but it's not Colorado.

(PS, if I've scheduled this post right, it should go up on October 1, which is Beel's birthday. Hoppy bird day two ewe, Beel.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 11

I unpacked some more pictures for the shelves today and ended up with more than 30 pictures, so today is a two-fer day.

I think kids need dogs, and I have always had a soft spot for Dalmatians, but there was no way we could afford to buy one from a breeder. When my ex-husband and I bought our house in Loveland, we went on the hunt for a dog for the kids. We applied to adopt from the Dalmatian rescue and when we were approved, went to see the dogs they had on hand.

Jake was this emaciated skeleton of a dog, but he had the best personality and he had to come home with us. Jake's original name was "Sunny" because of his disposition, but that was a dumb name, so it got switched pretty quickly. We were warned that he couldn't digest beef proteins, which is a problem for a lot of Dalmatians, but rescues feed the food that is donated and can't be too terribly picky.

Jakers quickly decided that he was my dog and did not care for my husband. In fact, one night, my ex came home late from a night of drinking and Jake wouldn't let him in the house. He quickly adopted the kids as his pack and never showed one ounce of aggression toward them.

I cooked his meals for months, just to get weight back on him. He went from looking like a walking skeleton to a well-fed (okay, maybe a bit obese) working dog. We had Jakers for about seven years before he started getting cranky. I chalked it up to old age, but when he snapped at one of the kids' friends, I knew something was wrong and took him to the vet. They couldn't find anything wrong and also decided that he was getting old and hard of hearing, but just to be on the safe side, they decided to run some blood work.

I griped about the cost of the blood work - the kids and I had NO disposable income and getting hit with a vet visit and a $90 blood test was definitely not in the budget - but I grudgingly agreed even though I knew it would be negative.

I was wrong. I got the call at work the next day. Jake had end stage renal failure. We could treat him, but there were no guarantees that he'd live any longer and his quality of life (as I could see it) would be in the toilet. He might have two weeks, he might have two months, but the fact was that our beloved dog was dying. I set the appointment with the vet to have him put down, burst into tears, and dreaded telling the kids that night.

How was I going to explain to the kids that we were going to kill their dog? Jake had been with us through so much - a divorce, moves, a flood, first days of school - every major milestone in their lives that they could remember, they had Jake with them.

I explained to them what was happening with Jake and let them decide if they wanted to be with him when we put him down. He was feeling pretty good, excited about going on a car ride, on his last day. The vet and his tech were amazing and took us to a grassy hill away from the clinic. All of our hearts broke as we petted him and watched our Jake take his last breath.

Our trip to Mexico a few weeks later was exactly what we needed to get away and begin the healing process. Jake was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime dog for all of us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 10

Dinner in Steamboat during our girls' weekend. I'm still very thankful that I met them through Hall. I firmly believe people come into our lives for a reason. Part of the reason Hall came into my life was to introduce me to these phenomenal women, for which I will always be grateful.

Monday, September 28, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 9

My cousin Tonia just celebrated her 18th wedding anniversary to Steve. Ashinator and Digger were so super cute as the flower girl and ring bearer.

The bridal party got ready in a room with a fruit platter and my Grandma kept feeding Ashinator all the fruit she wanted, not thinking about what was going to happen to her gut with all of that fresh fruit. The fruit started to work their magic during the ceremony, and every so often, Ash would disappear with my mom to the bathroom and then sneak back into line. A few minutes later, she'd disappear and reappear again.

Luckily, it wasn't too distracting and it makes for a cute story.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 8

As you have probably noticed, I like cool frames. Mom and Bill bought me this frame after Jay and I got engaged. I still haven't gotten around to having our wedding date inscribed, but maybe I will by our tenth anniversary.

The year we got engaged, we had family pictures taken, which was Jay's idea. He wanted to give his parents pictures of all of us, instead of just doing engagement photos. I love him a lot for that. Marrying into a family with teenagers and a woman who had been divorced for 12 years was no easy feat, but from the beginning, he did his best to include the kids.

Now, in the past seven years, there have been some rough patches, which was to be expected. The kids and I were pretty much it, so to have someone else join the family had its hard moments, but it has worked out.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 7

This picture was taken at my cousin's wedding 14 years ago. I only know how long ago it was because of Facebook - their anniversary was last month and I remember seeing it pop up.

They had a Roaring 20s themed wedding, with all of the groomsmen in zoot suits. I'm not much of a seamstress - I can sew and follow a pattern - but my attention to detail isn't quite like my mom's. I spent every night for weeks at my Grandma Mary's house after work, sewing the boys their zoot suits. Grandpa Moe was still alive then, and Grandma and Grandpa would babysit my kids while I was at work in the evenings, so I would go over and spend an hour or two each night sewing while the kids slept on the floor and Grandpa Moe watched Archie Bunker.

The movie The Mask with Jim Carrey had recently been released and Monster was very much enamored with it, so he insisted on his zoot suit being yellow just like in the movies. I couldn't find a yellow zipper, though, so he was stuck with a black one that made me crazy. I could have taken apart his pants and re-set it, but I sewed well into the night each night and got up really early each morning to go to school, so exhaustion just wouldn't allow me to do it.

Poor Digger looks like he hit one hell of a growth spurt, with his gangly arms hanging out of his sleeves, but that was my fault - I didn't measure him well. Luckily, though, neither of the boys were bothered by my decided lack of sewing practice and were thrilled to have their own zoot suits for the wedding.

Friday, September 25, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 6

Yes the glass is cracked on this one too. I'll eventually get around to replacing it.
Robs is the one who took this picture at Sovigliano, the agritourismo we rented for a couple of days. The Tuscan countryside is even more beautiful than you can imagine. I had only seen it in pictures or in movies, but neither of those do it any justice.

Getting to the Italian countryside was so good for my soul - and for Robs' too. I found her sitting quietly in the swing in the yard at dusk our first night. I took a picture of her just sitting there, enjoying the peace, but haven't even printed the picture because it seems like an intrusion.

I loved Rome and the cities we visited, but the countryside is magical.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 5

Back to Mexico with this picture. I made the kids go out on the balcony overlooking the pool so I could get a good "last day" picture of them. We were all rested and relaxed, but ready to head home. Being on vacation can be a lot of work sometimes.

We went to Mexico shortly after a hurricane had hit Puerto Vallarta and they were still in the clean-up repair stages. The condo's crew worked tirelessly to get the pool repaired. It re-opened about midway through our stay, but I loved the color of the tile so much I stole a piece. When we got home, I took the tile to the paint counter at our hardware store and had them mix up a gallon for my bedroom.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 4

Boy am I glad I never promised to do my 30 Days of Memories in 30 days! I would have blown it the first week!

When Hall and I were together, I was the only one divorced with children. I got married at 18 and had Digger at 20, so while I was in my mid-late twenties, my friends (the ones I met through Hall) were all in their early twenties. Hall and I broke up about the time all of our friends were starting to get married, but by that time, I'd claimed my girls. I got to keep them in the "divorce".

I was thrilled when Staci met her husband. In fact, Robs and I decided that we wanted to have a "Staci" relationship when we were ready to re-enter the relationship world. Holding to that thought, of being as in love with each other as Staci and her husband were (are) served me well, and I can honestly say I'm "Staci happy" with Jay.

Staci was the first of the group to have kids. This is a picture of me with her daughter when she was just a new baby. Now that beautiful baby girl is sailing the Caribbean with her mom, dad, and little brother. A few years ago, Staci and her husband sold pretty much everything they owned to buy a sailboat to live on. While I miss Staci so very much, I also love to live vicariously through their travels.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 3

Day 1
Day 2

(Yes, these are all pictures of pictures. I wanted to stay authentic to the memories on my new shelves, so I'm just snapping pics of what's on each shelf.)

In 2006, I was lucky enough to get to travel with a group of my friends to Italy for 15 days. It was amazing. I took this picture in the ruins outside of the Colosseum in Rome. I remember being absolutely astounded by all of the rich history in Italy. The U.S. is such a young country compared to the rest of the world that I felt like I'd stepped into a World History book. Despite losing my luggage and starting the day in soggy clothes (did you know that if you handwash your clothes and hang them to dry in a humid area, they won't, in fact, dry?), I had such a wonderful day.

I learned that the aqueducts (fontanelles) have some of the best water I've ever tasted. I'm completely a water snob, but I couldn't get enough of the aqueduct water.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 2

Day 1

Yes, I know the glass is broken, I'll get it replaced eventually.
My parents had a time-share condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and would take yearly trips. One year, must have been 2002-ish, we were finally able to join them. Things were ugly tight for us when the kids were little, but I was able to save up enough to buy airfare (thankfully it was fairly cheap at the time). Digger saved all of his money from working for Mom and Bill to buy his own airfare, something I believe he's still very proud of. After all, not every 11 year old can say they paid their own way to Mexico.

It was a wonderful week, one I'm very thankful for, because the kids had the opportunity to leave the U.S. In a perfect world, we would have traveled all over the place, but this was the only trip out of the country I could afford to take them on. Mom and Bill having the time-share didn't hurt either, since all I had to pay for was airfare and some spending money.

This particular photo was taken on a "private beach" - you know, the ones owned by every party ship in the area - after lunch. I'm surprised Digger has any semblance of a smile because the poor kid was chaffed. The dang mesh liner of his swim trunks about drew blood on our hike. I think he was just happy to not be walking any more.

Monday, September 14, 2015

30 Days of Memories: Day 1

After three years, I've finally been able to unpack my pictures and get them put up. Jay transformed two pallets into shelves for me, and I am once again able to see the pictures that bring me such wonderful memories.

I thought I'd take the next 30 days to post about each of my pictures and the memories they stir up. I'd love for others to join me, because it's going to be a lot of fun.

This was a girls' trip to Steamboat Springs one weekend a year or so after a bad breakup. I'm thankful for the relationship, because it introduced me to all of these wonderful women who were amazing and supportive through the whole thing. It was a weekend filled with hiking, fun, and laughter and I can't think of a better girls' weekend. (Unless, of course, we're talking about my surprise trip to the Women's World Cup, but that's another story.)

I sadly don't see many of these women on a weekly basis anymore, but I'm Facebook friends with most of them so we get to keep up with each other's lives. I firmly believe that people come into our lives for a reason - they might not stay forever, but the memories made will.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WPA 2015 - Thursday

I did actually make it to the Writers' Police Academy this year! I know I say I'm going every year, but then something always comes up and I can't make it. Instead, I end up as a sponsor. Finally, all of the stars lined up and I flew into Wisconsin. In years past, WPA has been hosted by GTCC in Greensboro, North Carolina, but we've outgrown that facility.

Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center is the new site of WPA and what a phenomenal facility it is. Since I work at a career college, I might appreciate their facility a bit more than others. I would love to be able to build a similar facility in my area of expertise, so in addition to learning a lot, I did some serious day-dreaming about what my "dream campus" would be.

"River City" - complete with houses, motel, gas station, and bank
I flew in on Thursday, in time for registration, orientation, and the first session: 3D Crime Scene Mapping presented by Dr. Joe LeFevre.

The technology available to law enforcement is astounding. Using a Leica scanner, a 3D map of a crime scene can be generated.

I was surprised to learn that the technology is not actually new - it's been around since the 70s! However, it was not used a law enforcement capacity. Geological survey crews were using these scanners and a brilliant state patrolman saw the opportunity to use it at car accidents to recreate the scenes.

It's essentially a giant laser range finder that takes 50,000 measurements a second and can complete a scan in as little as 2-3 minutes or up to 15 minutes, depending on the settings.

The scan takes the error out of mapping a crime scene; nothing is overlooked or mis-interpreted. Fox Valley was instrumental in developing a new technique in which still crime scene photos can be overlaid into the scan, which is helpful if the victim has been removed from the scene. Overlaying the crime scene photos on the scan helps juries "see" exactly what happened in instances where the scan wasn't done until much later in the investigation.

Though the scan takes just a few minutes, working with the raw data to make a file to work with can take several hours.

In fact, a 3D scanner (different manufacturer) was used by the FBI to collect evidence in the recent Aurora Theater Shooting. Eight days with the scanner ensured that the scene was properly mapped and nothing missed. I have to think that it played a small part in putting the bastard away for the rest of his (hopefully short) life.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


You know, for a writer, I don't get much writing done. I always have grand intentions of breaking out the computer when I get home from work, but it rarely happens.

I am currently revising TALES FROM THE TRAIL, adding about ten stories, including Estes' final chapter. It should have been included in the first edition, but her death was too raw and I'm just now ready to write about it.

The second book in the LYON'S ROAR series in flitting around in my brain. I even have the first chapter written, but it scares me a bit, so I'm finding it difficult to move forward. Next week, I'll be headed to Wisconsin to the Writers' Police Academy - a move I hope will help light the fire under my butt to sit down and get the next book out.

It was at the 2010 WPA that I learned the method by which Faceless Bad Guy used to enter Stacy Lyon's house. Each year, the WPA gets bigger and better, so I have no doubt I will return full of ideas that will appear in future books.

I leave on the 20th bright and early and return bright and early on the 23rd. The only decent price I could get back was at the butt-crack of dawn, so I'm going to miss the debrief on Sunday, but I'll have two and a half days of learning under my belt by then. (And I'll be back in time to see the premier of Fear the Walking Dead!)

I am pretty bad at posting to Twitter (@CSWilson_Author), but I'm going to work on it while at WPA. If you want to follow along with me and the other 299 authors who will be attending, watch #2015WPA for updates.

I'll also be posting cool things on Instagram (AuthorCSWilson), and my Facebook page (, so if you think about it, jump on over to follow along.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Robot Fail

This morning when I started Salome, a weird warning popped up on her screen. It said, "Battery Discharge Warning: please use system with engine running".

Completely weird, but I shrugged it off because I'd just started the car and knew the alternator would recharge the battery. Except that a mile down the road the same warning popped up. I started to get worried about the third or fourth time it popped up. The warning continued to pop up every thirty seconds (yes, I timed it) for my entire commute. I was convinced that I was driving on borrowed time, that something had happened to the alternator and that I was driving on battery power. I even skipped stopping for breakfast because I was concerned that Salome would die any second.

I made it to work without getting stranded on the side of the road and after class, I called the service department at the dealership, who agreed that it was worrisome and that I should take Salome in. After some finagling, I managed to arrange for Monster to borrow the Ashinator's car to follow me to the dealership just in case she died.

I had intended to just drop her off and go back to work, but they assured me it would take just a few minutes, so I sent Monster back home. By the way, "just a few minutes" translated into two hours - but they were productive hours.

The service manager came out to tell me I was past due for my oil change, which I knew and had scheduled an appointment for next week. He offered to just do it while they had her, so I agreed. Then he told me there was a recall on one of the throttle pieces, which I also knew, and he offered to go ahead and do it. As he was walking away, I asked about my passenger seatbelt.

From the first week, Salome's front passenger seatbelt wouldn't retract all the way and I'd complained about it at every oil change. The first time, they kind of patted me on the head and told me that the detail people hadn't removed all of the protective tape and that's what was binding it up. They removed the tape and sent me on the way.

But it didn't fix the problem, so the next time, I raised a little bigger stink about it. They kind of patted me on the head and sent me on my way again. The third time I went it, I raised an even bigger stink and they agreed to order a new seatbelt mechanism.

I explained the whole thing again to the service manager and he agreed to fix that as well.

Some time went by.

More time went by.

My phone, which I was reading a book on, died. 

A bit more time went by.

Finally, the service manager reappeared with a stack of papers and I got excited, thinking Salome was finished. Instead, he had one heck of a story for me.

First, they couldn't figure out why the sensor kept throwing up the battery discharge warning, but the battery and alternator were in good shape. No problem, they checked it out and that's all I asked.

The recall work went smoothly.

The oil change went smoothly.

The seatbelt, though...

Salome was assembled in Georgia by robots on an assembly line. No big deal, I knew that. However, what I didn't know, and what they were surprised to find, was the cause of the seatbelt issue. It seems that the robot responsible for bolting on the seatbelt mechanism lost it's socket. It tightened the nut on the bolt and the socket apparently broke off and went with the car. Honestly, that's not too surprising, I mean, how many times have you snapped the socket off of a wrench?

I bet it happens a lot and then the socket probably just falls off before the next stop on the assembly line/conveyor belt. But Salome must have really liked that socket and held onto it. When the body panel robot put the body panel on, the socket didn't break free, it was jammed between the A-post and the body panel. The panel torqued the socket just a bit, just enough to knock the seatbelt mechanism out of alignment, so it wouldn't retract.

I wasn't crazy, and I wasn't making it up, and they really couldn't just pat me on the head and send me on my way. While it's one crazy-ass story, at least I feel a bit vindicated.

But so help me if that damn warning light comes back on ...

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Ecclectic Me

I like lots of things. Sometimes I even have time to do the things I like. For instance, today I took the Glock out to play. It was frustrating and wonderful

The evil Dot Torture, right handed

Dot Torture, left handed
I did not do so well, but it was a great way to blow through 100 rounds of ammo and get some "me" time on the range.

Then I crashed my niece's birthday party. I hadn't really been invited, but Mom let it slip that she was going to have a faerie garden party and I wanted a faerie garden, so I called Nebalee and invited myself along.


Laying it out with rocks



I couldn't decide between a faerie forest or a faerie beach, so they got both.
I love Sand Beach Lake - it's one of my all-time favorite destinations, so I built the little faeries their own version of Sand Beach lake. It doesn't look quite this good after the car ride home, but it's still cute. Here's hoping Speed Racer doesn't find it and help himself to, well, everything.

Asset's garden turned out really cute - what a great idea to have a faerie garden party.

It was so much fun, I want a faerie garden party for my birthday too! I'm going to have to plan a "girls' day" very soon.